21 June to 2 July 2018
Agia Eufimia, Cefalonia to Vathi, Ithaca, N38° 22.05’ E20° 43.01’,17nm, 3 hours
to Kioni, N38° 26.98’ E20° 41.45’, 6nm, 1 hour 30
It has been impossible to spend time in Greece without hearing all the myths and legends of gods, goddesses and monsters. We even had all good intentions to finally read some Homer when we got here but got way laid with more recent real life Greek histories and stories. We have visited so many of the mythical locations of Homer’s stories so visiting Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, had been on our list since we arrived in the Ionian. Approaching the island we started reading a bit more about Odysseus and his Odyssey and the many theories about the places Homer describes.
We had read that Ithaca was the island on which Odysseus was born, the island on which his wife Penelope waited 20 long years for him whilst he completed his epic voyage and the island to which he returned in disguise. Sailing round the southern tip of Ithaca from Cefalonia and up the eastern side we were immediately struck by how much greener the island is compared to so many of the other islands we’d visited. Turning into the bay at Vathi the contrast between the green hills of Ithaca and the high bare mountains of Cefalonia behind was very stark.
The town of Vathi has the recognisable pastel palette of the Venetians and is nestled amongst the green hills. We anchored in the bay off the town for a couple of nights and went in search of its favourite son.
It’s fair to say that Ithaca capitalises on its Odyssey connections
but in the narrow streets behind the water front, instead of Odysseus, we found Byron. We know by now that Byron is something of a hero in Greece for having fought with them in the war of independence. In Vathi, however, we found a much less auspicious statue to him than the very grand one in Athens. After visiting the island for just one day he waxed lyrical about it. More than a little fickle perhaps, he is reported to have said much the same about other places he visited! Maybe this was the reason this commemoration seemed a little homemade.
Near Byron we found the folklore museum for a glimpse of Greek life centuries after he or Odysseus were here
and then finally, looking over the fishing boats, we found Odysseus standing tall on his island.
Before we moved on we took a walk up one of the green hills surrounding the bay. The slopes are covered in olive, cypress, pine and eucalyptus trees but it was the rosemary and sage bushes that in the heat of the day gave the island the most gorgeous scent. We walked down the other side of the hill to a beautiful beach only to have to climb back up it to get home!
Keen to spend some more time on Ithaca we moved up to a bay on the north east corner at Kioni. The entrance to the bay is guarded by three disused windmills and, although Kioni has become something of an upmarket resort of late, the view from the back of the boat on the town quay was still quite rural.
The quay was busy with other visiting yachts and we were lucky to arrive early enough to get a space and another free mooring.
Like Cefalonia, many towns on Ithaca were severely damaged by the earthquake in 1953 and there was certainly evidence of it in Kioni.
We headed back into Ithaca’s green hills in search of the three windmills. We walked and walked – and talked to some goats on the way – but just couldn’t find our way to them. We know it’s possible to get to them on foot because we waved at some people who had found them when we passed by in the tender!
Another walk up over the hill above Kioni the following day took us to a perfect spot for a breakfast picnic which we shared with a young dog who had followed us most of the way. He seemed to enjoy his bread and honey and joined us for the hike back up the hill. He hung around whilst we had coffee at a small café which appeared to double as a corner shop, community centre and church. It was Sunday and they were showing a church service on the telly!
Kioni was a very pretty place so we stayed another night although that might have had more to do with Stefan being able to persuade a tiny bar in the village to play the Grand Prix for him!
When we left Ithaca we felt refreshed by all the greenery and enlightened about Odysseus and left confident in the knowledge that we had found his home.
But had we?